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My week in Tokyo after the earthquake struck

My week in Tokyo after the earthquake struck

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Empty train at Night in Tokyo after the earthquake 

March 11th at 2.30 pm appeared to be nothing special in Tokyo because like usual the capital city was busy and the onrushing crowd could be seen and felt all over the capital. However, at 2.46 pm everything changed because a 9.0-magnitude earthquake hit Japan and the potency could be felt in Tokyo despite the epicenter being far away.

I was in the Yurakcho area when the earthquake struck and I could see the JR Yurakcho train line shaking violently and the same applied to the ground and buildings nearby.  It became apparent from the first second that this was no ordinary earthquake because the potency and strength was beyond my imagination.

Also, unlike other earthquakes that I have witnessed in Japan the longevity of the 9.0-magnitude earthquake was long and severe.  The pavement felt like it was going to burst and second after second felt like a lifetime because many things were flashing in my mind.

I witnessed people running out of the book shop and other buildings close to the train station in Yurakcho and some women were crying because they were visibly shocked.  While others were watching the train station swaying and amidst the confusion people just stood and gazed in bewilderment. 

After this, then parts of Tokyo grinded to a halt and this notably applied to the train system and companies which had a strong earthquake policy.  However, amidst the confusion many retail shops stayed open in Ginza and people were still shopping in some department stores after the first major earthquake struck because the magnitude of the earthquake was still unknown.

I entered the Tokyo International Forum for safety because I know that buildings are built to the highest standard in Tokyo and in other major cities throughout Japan.  If I had been in any other nation then I would have avoided a major building out of fear.  However, I know full well that Japan designs buildings in order to resist the destructiveness of earthquakes and the Nihonbashi, Ginza, and Yurakcho area is in a very exclusive part of Tokyo and the state of the art buildings are a class apart.

The next few hours passed and major aftershocks could be felt from time to time but most people did not panic.  I, like many others, searched for information and then it soon became apparent that the earthquake had hit Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima, and outlying prefectures, very hard.

In time it became known that a devastating tsunami followed but information at first was very sketchy.  By this time the transportation system was in chaos and I was walking around various parts of Tokyo and I got lost between Akihabara, Kanda, and Otemachi.  However, by 10pm the metro system began to work and I found a Mita Line train station and entered a jam-packed train and headed home.

It was not until the following day that news began to emerge that the death total was going to be very high.  This was because of the terrible tsunami which destroyed many coastal parts of Japan.

Aftershocks were ongoing and Tokyo felt very strange one day after the earthquake had hit Japan.  Many companies were closed and the train system remained to be chaotic on some lines and the aftershocks were adding to the uneasiness.

After several days more and more news was filtering out and it was apparent that thousands of people had died in Iwate, Fukushima, Miyagi, and regional prefectures in the same part of Japan. 

Shops were running empty on food in Tokyo and many companies were closed or reduced the working day.  I myself visited Seiyu and was amazed that food hoarding was happening so quickly because Tokyo had escaped relatively unscathed compared with people along the coast of north-eastern Japan.

All my appointments were cancelled for one full week and many mobile phone companies were not operating fully.  More important, it was becoming more apparent that a split was emerging between the areas devastated by the earthquake and tsunami compared with people in Tokyo.

This applies to the nuclear plants in Fukushima because the fear of radiation was felt in Tokyo and neighboring prefectures like Chiba, Kanagawa, and Saitama.  Therefore, while local people were feeling the tragic loss of life in Iwate and Miyagi and clearly were finding life hard because of electricity failure, lack of running water, and of course many had been made homeless. 

The situation was different for Tokyoites because while sympathy and concern went out to the earthquake and tsunami hit areas; it was apparent that the radiation factor was more of a problem.

For people in Fukushima they had to face the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear factor, together because all three tragedies hit this part of Japan.  Therefore, while the nuclear issue became a concern in Iwate and Miyagi; they could not afford the luxury of Tokyoites to mainly focus on radiation because they were too busy finding dead people in the thousands and facing the brunt of power blackouts and other negative factors.

The most noticeable change in Tokyo is that people are finishing work early or companies have closed down or reduced the working day.  Therefore, by 9pm at night from March 12th to March 18th the silence of Tokyo was apparent because many trains are quiet and many shops are closed.

It is also noticeable that many foreign nationals are leaving because of the fear of radiation but I, and others, have no intention of leaving Tokyo because this is my home.

My heart goes out to the people of Fukushima, Iwate, Miyagi, and other badly hit areas and in truth I count myself lucky that I reside in Tokyo.  I do not worry about radiation because I believe that Tokyo is too far away and I feel a sense of guilt to worry about this.

Also, my working-class Manchester nature is strong and my northern English roots and culture is based on being tenacious and not giving up.

After all, thousands of people have been killed by the earthquake and tsunami.  Therefore, it is the people of Fukushima who are on the frontline of the nuclear crisis and I can write every day, travel by train, take a shower when I want, and use the infrastructure of Tokyo.

The silence is eerie at night and my economic situation is being hit by the earthquake.  However, thousands of families wish they had only my basic problems but sadly they have lost everything.

More than one week after the tragic earthquake and tsunami and Tokyo still feels strange.  This applies to silence at night, food hoarding, business closures or reduced working hours, and a sense of fear about radiation for some Tokyoites.

However, for some you still see people meeting friends, having a drink, shopping during the day and the usual things.  Therefore, just like when the earthquake first struck, it is apparent that people have different thinking and for some it is business like usual but in a more guarded way. 

While for others they are visibly in shock and are anxious about the ongoing nuclear crisis and are saddened by the destruction and huge loss of life in Fukushima, Iwate, Miyagi, and other coastal areas.

Tokyo life is currently in a flux and like Japan itself, it is clear that March 11th will be embedded into the psyche but for all the wrong reasons.

http://www.moderntokyotimes.com

http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/arrange/attractions/shopping/ginza.html   

– GINZA AND YURAKCHO PART OF TOKYO

http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3005.html  – GINZA

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Fukushima and the radiation crisis continues to ebb and flow

Fukushima and the radiation crisis continues to ebb and flow

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Panic Buying caused by Fukushima, the earthquake and tsunami

Panic Buying caused by Fukushima, the earthquake and tsunami

The nuclear plant in Fukushima continues to ebb and flow from optimism to fear and many experts are saying different things.  This is leading to greater panic in the Fukushima region and further afield, for example many people in Tokyo are worried and the same applies to other prefectures like Kanagawa, Saitama, and a host of other prefectures, which are concerned about current events.

Between March 15th and March 16th several strong earthquakes have been felt in Shizouka and in the Pacific just off Chiba and both reached the magnitude of 6.0.  At the same time people in Sendai, which was badly hit by the original earthquake and the tsunami which followed, are worried about the effects of radiation.

This applies to the wind and the fear of rain carrying radiation.  Therefore, nature is once more adding to the sense of uncertainty because if radiation outputs did increase and the wind was strong and rain began to fall, then the crisis and alarm bells would ring even louder.

The government of Japan and some experts are stating that radiation is not so serious because the radiation amount is too low and people should not worry.  Despite this, the psychological nature of radiation is creating fear and uncertainty, even if this is based on wrong information it is difficult to calm the nerves of many people.  Therefore, the ongoing uncertainty in Fukushima is spreading to other parts of Japan and the government which is giving daily updates, appears to have a strong battle on its hands in order to win over the people of Japan.

I reside in Tokyo and empty supermarkets and a strange quietness can be felt and many people are rushing home from work or hoarding food.  This does not apply to all Tokyoites and many are putting a brave face on and getting on with life.

Apparently the government of France is telling its nationals who reside in Tokyo to either return to France or to move to southern areas in Japan.  Also, other reports have stated that some foreign nationals are leaving Tokyo because fear and uncertainty appears to have got the better of them.  I, and other international citizens, have no intention of leaving Tokyo because Japan is our home and people need to pull together and get a sense of reality.

It is difficult to comprehend that tens of thousands have been killed in Iwate and Miyagi because of the earthquake and tsunami which struck so violently; and then equate this with the relative safety of Tokyo.  Therefore, the general public and some foreign nationals in Tokyo appear to be in “a panic bubble” while the reality is that tens of thousands have died in Iwate and Miyagi.  

Latest news about Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant is that radiation levels did increase dramatically and staff had to be evacuated because of precautionary measures and to protect the workers from radiation contamination.  Yukio Edano, Chief Cabinet Secretary, is giving many briefs about the ongoing crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant and it is clear that radiation levels are ebbing and flowing by the hour. 

Explosion at Fukushima nuclear plower plant

Explosion at Fukushima nuclear plower plant

Tokyo Electric Power Co. gave information about a fire breaking out at No. 4 reactor of the Fukushima No 1 nuclear power plant on March 16th in the morning.  This followed on from a hydrogen explosion which happened the day before near the same location.

Yukio Edano stated that radiation levels had fallen from 1,000 millisieverts during the morning of March 16th to between 600-800 millisieverts.  He added that this was still high and over the usual average and that “workers cannot carry out even minimal work at the plant now. Because of the radiation risk, we are on standby.”

Yukio Edano also commented that “A part of the containment vessel is broken and it seems like the vapor is coming out from there. So… [it] appears to be that vapor is coming out from the broken part.”

The nuclear crisis in Fukushima is ongoing and just like the radiation levels which are ebbing and flowing, the same appears to apply to hourly information.  Different news agencies and experts appear to either be talking up events or talking down events and you have a lot of confusion and this is leading to panic in parts of Japan.

Meanwhile, the reality of the earthquake and tsunami is still coming to light and it emerged today that the fate of Otsuchi in the north-east of Japan remains unknown.  The population of the town of Otsuchi is 8,000 and the fate of half of the population remains unclear and sadly the worse is feared.

It is to this backdrop that I am thankful that I am based in Tokyo and Tokyoites should think deeply about the plight of people who have suffered so much.  Therefore, it is essential to pull together and try to move the economy forward.

At the same time the government needs to focus on a multitude of important things in order to restore greater confidence but a sense of reality is also needed to people who reside far away from Fukushima.

This is not downplaying the situation but panic and fear will not help Japan.

The real focus must be on Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima, and all places which have been badly hit by the earthquake, tsunami, and the ongoing nuclear crisis.

http://moderntokyotimes.com  (Please visit)

 
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Posted by on March 16, 2011 in INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND GLOBAL NEWS, Japan

 

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